When Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of most of Russia's military contingent from Syria there was an expectation that the Yauza, a Russian naval icebreaker and one of the mission's main supply vessels, would return home to its Arctic Ocean port. Instead, the Yauza, part of the "Syrian Express," the nickname given to the ships that have kept Russian forces supplied, left the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk for Tartous, Russia's naval facility in Syria. The movements suggest Russia is working intensively to maintain its military infrastructure in Syria and to supply the Syrian army so that it can scale up again swiftly if need be. Putin has not detailed what would prompt such a move, but any perceived threat to Russia's bases in Syria or any sign that President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's closest Middle East ally, was in peril would be likely to trigger a powerful return.
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Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a Managing Editor for OpEd News, and a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites.